ISSN #1088-8136

Vol. 8, No. 1
Spring 2002

East Timor Achieves Hard-won Nationhood

Changes and Challenges in Washington

The Women of East Timor Demand Justice

A Dangerous Oil Slick

Documents Detailing Role of Kissinger and Ford in 1975 Invasion Released

Ten Years for Justice and Self-Determination

ETAN Continues Refugee and Justice Campaigns

About East Timor and the East Timor Action Network

Spring 2002

back issues

ETAN Home Page

Documents Detailing Role of Kissinger and Ford in 1975 Invasion Released

U.S. support for the occupation of East Timor led to the formation of ETAN over a decade ago.  More details of U.S. complicity in Indonesia’s illegal annexation of East Timor were made public on the 26th anniversary of the invasion. On 7 December 2001, researchers released previously-classified United States government documents which proved what many had known for years: the U.S. was informed in advance of Indonesia’s plans and approved them at the highest levels. The information, which included transcripts of two 1975 meetings between President Gerald Ford and Indonesian dictator Suharto, was obtained through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and made public by the National Security Archive, a Washington-based non-governmental organization.

In July 1975, Suharto visited Washington, meeting with Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Although at the time East Timor was still under Portuguese rule, the Indonesian leader told the Americans: “…the only way is to integrate into Indonesia,” describing Fretilin [the leading pro-independence East Timorese party] as “Communist elements.”

Before their next meeting with Suharto, Kissinger provided “talking points” to Ford, which included the following: “We note Indonesia has expressed willingness to see a merger of [East Timor] with Indonesia with the assent of the inhabitants of Timor. This would appear to be reasonable solution.” The same memo proposed doubling U.S. military aid to Indonesia.
Preferring a quiet takeover to an outright invasion, the memo notes that “use of U.S.-supplied weapons in an overt occupation of the territory, however, would contravene U.S. law.” It goes on to say this had been pointed out to Indonesia and “it appears to have been a restraining factor.” But on December 6 Ford declined to use the possibility of lessened U.S. military assistance to discourage an Indonesian invasion.

When Suharto, Ford and Kissinger met in Jakarta, U.S. intelligence already knew about Indonesia’s recently-finalized invasion plans. Early in the meeting, Ford was “enthusiastic” about building an M-16 munitions plant in Indonesia. The Indonesian dictator then raised the Timor issue, saying, “We want your understanding, if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action.” Ford replied: “We will understand and will not press you on the issue. We understand the problem and the intentions you have.”

Although Kissinger  acknowledged the illegality of using U.S. weapons for offensive attacks, saying , “the use of U.S.-made arms could create problems,” both he and Ford saw this as something that could be dealt with.

But Kissinger warned Suharto: “it is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly.  We would be able to influence the reaction if whatever happens, happens after we return.... If you have made plans, we will do our best to keep everyone quiet until the President returns home.” He added,”the President will be back on Monday at 2 PM Jakarta time. We understand your problem and the need to move quickly but I am only saying that it would be better if it were done after we returned.”

Kissinger asked if Suharto anticipated “a long guerilla war” and the Indonesian leader replied, “[t]here will probably be a small guerilla war.” Indonesia launched their invasion soon after the meeting, while Ford and Kissinger were in the Philippines. Over 90% of the weapons used came from the U.S. Six months later, according to another recently-released document, U.S. State Department officials agreed, “We’ve resumed all of our normal relations with [Indonesia]; and there isn’t any problem involved.”

These documents highlight the need to hold U.S. leaders, as well as Indonesian military and government officials, accountable for the invasion and occupation of East Timor.  They offer further evidence that while the U.S. had no particular interest in East Timor, relations with the Suharto regime were of utmost importance to Washington. To Kissinger and Ford, the fate of hundreds of thousand of East Timorese clearly mattered little as long as Suharto was happy.

see Kissinger-Ford page


New Coalition Targets Crimes of Henry Kissinger

ETAN recently joined the International Campaign against Impunity and Instituto Cono Sur (which refers to the the southern cone of South America, where “Operation Condor “ death squads operated) in launching KissingerWatch, a project modeled on the success of the Pinochet Watch bulletin ( The coalition notes that “to many, Henry Kissinger epitomizes the failure of the Western world to pay serious attention to the grave crimes committed by its leadership,” and and will distribute relevant information, examine the status of Kissinger’s impunity, foster debate and facilitate action.

Though long overdue, it does seem that legal pressures on the celebrity war criminal are making his old age a bit more uncomfortable. Cases against Kissinger and other Nixon administration officials have been launched by victims of the Pinochet regime’s 17-year dictatorship in both Chilean and American courts. A Chilean investigating judge has formally asked Kissinger to respond to questions about the killing of American citizen Charles Horman (subject of the Costa-Gravas film “Missing”), after the coup that ousted democratically elected Socialist President Salvador Allende Gossens and brought General Pinochet to power on September 11, 1973.

Judges in Spain and France have sought to question Kissinger on “Operation Condor.” A London activist recently failed in an attempt to have Kissinger arrested for war crimes in Indochina. The magistrate said such a request should be heard in a higher court, pointing the way for further action should Kissinger visit England again.

A new generation of activists is becoming aware of other periods in Kissinger’s unsavory career (as detailed in Christopher Hitchens’ book The Trial of Henry Kissinger), including his orchestration of the illegal bombing of Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam war. Declassified documents show that Kissinger knowingly lied to Congress when he testified that areas in those countries bombed by the U.S. were “unpopulated.” He was also complicit in covering up massive war crimes committed in Angola, Cyprus and Bangladesh.